A cross-country goodbye for the 38th president

Posted in United States | 28-Dec-06 | Author: Laura Parker| Source: USA Today

A photo of former President Gerald R. Ford is shown draped with black cloth at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ford will be buried in in Grand Rapids, Mich.
President Gerald Ford will lie in state this weekend in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and have a state funeral Tuesday at Washington National Cathedral, a family spokesman said.

His final place of rest will be a hillside tomb in Grand Rapids, Mich., the city he lived in as a boy within the district he represented in Congress for a quarter-century, said family spokesman Gregory Willard.

President Bush will be among many dignitaries to attend the Washington service for Ford, who died Tuesday night at age 93.

A cause of death was not disclosed, but Ford had been in declining health in recent years. In January, he was hospitalized for 12 days for pneumonia. In August, he underwent angioplasty at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday before sunrise from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush described Ford as "a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.

"Our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's history," Bush said.

On Friday, a small, private ceremony will be held at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif., near the Fords' home. The Rev. Robert Certain, the family's pastor, said the public would be invited to pay respects to Ford at the church later in the day.

On Saturday, Ford will be flown to Washington and lie in state through Tuesday morning. In a departure from tradition meant to highlight his long congressional service, Ford's remains will lie in repose outside the doors of both the House and Senate for short periods.

Following services at the cathedral, Ford's casket will be returned to Grand Rapids. There, Ford will be buried on Wednesday in a tomb on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Ford represented Grand Rapids in Congress from 1949 until he was tapped as President Nixon's vice president in 1973.

Ford's grace and bipartisanship became the theme of the many tributes offered to him by President Bush, former presidents Clinton, Carter and George H.W. Bush, and congressional leaders.

Ford will be the 11th president to lie in state. His funeral will not feature as much pageantry as that of President Reagan in 2004. Reagan's funeral was the first state funeral since Lyndon Johnson's in 1973, and his casket was carried in a funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue — an honor granted to only eight presidents. Funeral processions were held for all four presidents who were assassinated: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.

Presidential funerals are painstakingly planned years in advance, with presidents typically participating in the decision-making. After a president dies, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington and the family handle the details.

Former Republican Senate majority leader Robert Dole of Kansas told CNN he would be one of the honorary pallbearers.

In Michigan, mourners paid their respects at the Ford museum Wednesday. The museum said its lobby would remain open 24 hours a day until the burial.

Contributing: The Associated Press